The Beautiful Girlhood Doll ~ Part 8: Out of the Doll House & Into the Real World

NOTE: “For personal reasons, “Liberty” has changed her pseudonym to “Libby Anne.”
by Libby Anne

And then I left for college. College had always been one of my parents’ expectation for me, and I’ve never seen them as proud as they were at my homeschool graduation. With my parents’ approval, I chose a secular college because I wanted to witness to others and make a difference in the world. I had been taught that I was to be a culture changer, shouldn’t I start now? My parents approved of this choice because they believed I was ready.

Of course, I believed my role was to be a wife and mother, but no one had appeared to seek my hand and my parents, both college educated themselves, had never shaken the idea that a college degree is important. I would graduate from college, they said, and then work until someone came to my father asking for my hand, and then marry and settle down as a homemaker, wife, and mother. My plan was to find an upstanding Christian man in college and graduate with a ring on my finger. After all, I didn’t want to delay having children any more than I had to, because I knew I wanted a very large family. Until then, though, I would use my college years to witness to others and further God’s kingdom.

I found out almost immediately upon arriving at college that I did not fit in very well. I thought this was just because I had been homeschooled, but it was more than that. I wore only homemade clothing, had hair all down my back, and didn’t use makeup. I definitely stuck out! In addition to looking out of place, I had no idea how to relate to anyone I met, because none of them shared my exact beliefs or had an upbringing anything similar to mine. I was the very definition of a fish out of water.

Gradually, I began to make friends with evangelical girls I met in my dorm. The god-talk was familiar to me, but their upbringings were still largely foreign. None of my new friends had more than a couple siblings, and none of them believed in female submission the way I did. They were in college so that they could have careers; they didn’t plan to be homemakers. They were astonished when they learned that I believed I would be under my younger brother’s authority if my father died, and they found my clothing and mannerisms strange and funny. Yet they accepted me as I was, and for that I will always be grateful. Without them, my transition to college would have been a great deal more painful than it was.

College quickly taught me first that those who did not believe like I did were neither automatically miserable inside nor bad people. In fact, I found that even Catholics, gays, and agnostics could be lovely people. This confused me but it also opened my world and showed me that dividing humanity into “good” and “evil” was too simplistic.

I realized, though, that I could not witness to others very well when I stuck out like a sore thumb. I therefore bought myself a new wardrobe, cut my hair, and learned to wear makeup. My new clothes were still conservative, but at least they were not floor length homemade dresses. My new look worked, and I began to have theological and political conversations with a number of non-Christians. I worked hard to show them the perfection of the Bible, the evidence of young earth creationism, the evils of abortion, and the love of God.

Strangely, I found a surprising number of my arguments rebutted by arguments I had never heard before. I was told that there were serious problems with creationism, ethical issues with the Bible, and more effective ways to decrease abortion than banning it. I turned to my resources, my books and websites on creationism, theology, and conservative politics, and I tried again. And again. And again. But some things just didn’t add up. I paused my arguments to do some serious research, and I was astounded by what I found.

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The Beautiful Girlhood Doll ~ Part 7: Submission & Obedience

by Libby Anne

The Godly Woman recognizes that “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man…” She willingly and joyfully submits to him in everything as she would unto Christ. What other women view as a burden and degradation, she views as an honor and a blessing.

My parents believed in male headship and the umbrella of authority. They believed that the husband is the head of the wife and that the wife must submit to the husband even as the husband must love the wife. And submission meant obedience.

My mother was constantly reading books like Me? Obey Him? as she strove to be a better, more submissive wife. This was difficult for my mother, for she was a very strong woman. I watched her war with herself as she tried to reconcile her strong spirit with the submission she believed in so steadfastly. I watched her cry over it, watched it eat away at her. Occasionally, my father became upset with my mother, feeling that she was infringing on his authority. His most common response was to give her the silent treatment, and that was enough. In response, my mother generally first felt indignation and then blamed herself for not submitting enough and resolved again and again to do better. While my parents loved each other dearly, this tension added strain to their relationship, and I could see it.

Yet interestingly, even as I watched my mother struggle with female submission, I nevertheless believed in it strongly. At the same time, I usually inwardly sided with my mom in her disputes with my dad, largely because he could appear so unreasonable and become upset over seemingly small matters. I justified this contradiction between my beliefs and my feelings with regard to my parents’ quarrels by telling myself that I would have no trouble submitting to my future husband since I would marry a reasonable man who would not give me such trouble.

Of course, my parents believed in more than just a wife’s submission to her husband. They also believed that children are under their father’s authority and are to submit to him. For boys, this lasted until age eighteen, when they would leave the home and start a career; for girls, this lasted until marriage to a man approved by the father. This meant that while my brothers would be out from under my father’s authority when they turned eighteen, I would not. My parents also believed that if my father died, I would be under the authority of my nearest male relative, which in practice meant my oldest younger brother.

In retrospect, I am almost baffled that I believed this so wholeheartedly and sincerely, but I think I understand why. First, I was also able to endorse female submission because I myself had never been in a position where what I wanted contradicted what my male authority wanted, and second, when I endorsed female submission I found myself praised and affirmed.

I loved and respected my father, and we agreed on petty much everything (except, I suppose, his disagreements with my mother). I was my father’s golden girl, his pride and joy. It was like he had shaped me to be the perfect daughter, to be everything he had always wanted. I was smart, and my parents educated me well so that I could carry on intelligent conversations with him on a variety of issues. I felt his pride in me and I basked in it. I lived for my father’s approval, and this was a driving force behind my diligence in education and in homemaking. I strove to be everything my father wanted me to be, and received nothing but praise in return. I thus had never had any reason to resent the presence of male authority over me and every reason to endorse it and claim it.

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It's About the DAUGHTERS

[Note: This piece is being crossposted at No Longer Quivering as a way to introduce NLQ readers to guest writer, Libby Anne's new blog: Love, Joy, Feminism. Read Libby Anne's "The Beautiful Girlhood Doll" series here.]

by Liberty

When it comes to the multitude of problems with Christian Patriarchy, it is the position of the daughters that I am most passionate about. The patriarch has it pretty good – he’s the one who gets to call the shots. The sons usually don’t have it so bad either – they’re patriarchs in training. The mothers may spend their lives having baby after baby and they may believe that they’re to submit to the patriarch in everything, but they generally chose this life at some point, and knew what life was like before on the outside. Then there is the daughter. Unlike her mother, the daughter of Patriarchy has no choice.

She is told that all she is ever to be is a wife and mother. She may someday run a home business, selling herbs or dresses she’s made, but she may never work outside the home or – god forbid! – have a career.

She is told that an education is a dangerous thing. Education in the Bible and in homemaking skills are a good thing, but worldly knowledge is dangerous. The daughter of patriarchy learns early that she must guard her mind from evil thoughts and any question or doubt.

She learns early the importance of submission. She must submit to her parents, and, even when she is grown, to her father. She is taught that women must always be under male authority, and that an independent woman is a dangerous thing.

She spends her days helping her mother, cooking and cleaning and changing diapers. This is her destiny, and it is what she is put on earth for. She has little time with friends, as her mother is busy with baby after baby and she must be counted on to keep the house running.

She learns that the world outside of her patriarchal bubble is an evil and dangerous place. Feminists are selfish and ungodly, girls who wear tank tops and short skirts are sluts and whores, and the world is descending into chaos and damnation.

In sum, she is taught to believe what her father does, do as her father says, and stay in line. Any sign of independent thought is immediately squelched. She is taught a skewed view of the world, brainwashed into believing that those who might be her greatest allies are her enemies, and that to be different is to be evil. She knows nothing of the outside world save fear. Her education is often deficient, and even if she is educated well, she is taught to shoot low and her potential to dream big dreams is stifled, thus sabotaging her potential to even consider a worthwhile or fulfilling career. Thoughts normal girls have never enter her mind.
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The Beautiful Girlhood Doll ~ Part 6: Joy & Friendship

by Libby Anne

The woman of God is joyful and seeks companionship with those who share the same vision. For the daughter who has embraced the beauty of Christian girlhood, the richest friendships begin within her family, where she learns to love and honor, and first learns the joy of belonging to another.

I had a lot of friends growing up, and they definitely all shared my vision. In fact, they were all exactly like me! All of my friends were white, middle class, and homeschooled, and they all shared the same religious beliefs that I did. This is because I only ever met other girls my age at church or in a Christian homeschool co-op, and I only ever got to see a friend frequently if our parents were also friends and our families got together regularly. Thus my friends were generally the children of my parents’ friends.

All of my friends were girls. This was probably largely a result of the strange coincidence that none of my parents’ friends had sons my age, but it was likely also furthered by the strong belief in different roles for boys and girls. I also think that the concern that if I knew a boy, I might somehow end up falling in love with him or kissing him or something, against my parents’ wishes, contributed to my not ever going out of my way to seek friendship with any boys my age. And in reality, I would not have known what to do with a guy friend if I had had one. After all, guys do not generally have tea parties, play with dollhouses, cook, or sew. Regardless of the reasons behind it, the fact that I only had girlfriends meant that eventually, when I went to college, I had to figure out how to deal with guys my age from scratch.

My friends and I often discussed our beliefs, but because we were in agreement on all the particulars the result was that we simply moved ourselves further and further into Christian Patriarchy. We were all devoted believers, and our discussions made us only more fervent. Head coverings, skirts only, staying at home rather than going to college – it was all on the table. It was like we had somehow tied our worth to our level of devotion, so the more devoted we could prove ourselves, the more holy we would be. Because of this, several of my friends almost talked me into staying home and not going to college. I admitted to them that they were right, we as girls shouldn’t go to college and should instead spend those years serving others. Yet at the same time I had to reconcile this new-found realization with my parents’ strong assumption that I would go to college. In the end, my parents expectation won out over doubts that had built up in my mind, largely planted there by my friends.

For the large part of my childhood, my friends ranged from one year older than me to three years younger than me. However, when I was in high school a number of factors resulted in my not seeing my closest friends very frequently. In response, I made several new friends, but they were six or seven years younger than me. This meant that at seventeen the friends I spent the most time with were ten and eleven years old. We had good times, tea parties, dollhouses, and all, but our friendship caused some interesting dynamics. For example, they looked up to me a great deal and this both gave me a lot of influence over them and meant that they would affirm pretty much anything I said or did.
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The Beautiful Girlhood Doll ~ Part 5: Home & Hospitality

by Libby Anne

One of the defining qualities of beautiful girlhood is a love for home and hospitality. A young girl watches her mother and looks forward to the day when she, too, will have a family. While other girls are driven by wanderlust, the hospitable girl finds true contentment at home.

I loved being at home, and I never wanted to be anywhere else. My home was my father’s castle, and I loved it. While some of my siblings sometimes chaffed at not being allowed to go out and do things with their friends like other children, it never bothered me one bit. I would have rather stayed home anyway.

We children all had chores – with the amount of work needed to run a household of fourteen people, there was no other option. Besides, my parents believed work was good for children. I don’t mean that we had chores like essentially every other American child does, I mean we had CHORES. For a while, I did all the laundry for the family, and at another time I did all the cooking. Children were given chores starting when they could walk, and they were expected to do their chores each morning before breakfast, or they were not allowed to eat. I actually did not mind having chores one little bit. I had a lot of work to do, of course, but I loved the sense of accomplishment when I completed it.

Chores were segregated by gender. The girls cleaned bathrooms, did laundry, cooked, and cleaned around the house while the boys mowed, cleared brush, fed the animals, and saw to the upkeep of the outdoors. We all worked, but girls did girl chores and boys did boy chores. Within this schema, indoor chores and those involving the upkeep of the house were generally seen as the girls’ natural responsibility.

Caring for the younger children also fell to the girls, and this happened often. My mother had a lot on her plate, teaching high school, middle school, elementary school, and preschool while constantly nursing babies, and she needed my sisters and I to help out. And we did. I remember doing school in my bedroom with little sisters or brothers playing on the floor, or dropping everything to help make lunch or put a little one to bed.

In addition, while we never had a permanent buddy system, I have to admit that I did play favorites, and was especially close to one specific little sister. She was born at the moment I became a teenager, and it was almost like she was my own baby. When she was hurt or upset, she would come to me rather than to my mother. I saw this same pattern play out again several years later when one of my middle sisters, who was about six at the time, practically adopted the newest baby, getting her dressed in the morning, feeding her, carrying her around, and putting her down for naps. This sort of attachment was encouraged.

In addition to learning to care for children, I also learned how to run a house. When it came time for me to study economics in (homeschool) high school, my parents found a course that taught home economics, including things like balancing a checkbook and creating a budget. I learned from my mother how to shop for a large family, how to find clothes on a small budget, and how to make ends meet. As I watched my mother running the household, I was inwardly preparing myself to do the same. I am very much an organizer and a manager, and I could not wait to practice these talents in a home of my own.

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